Aesthetics and Morality (Bloomsbury Aesthetics)

Aesthetics and Morality (Bloomsbury Aesthetics)

Elisabeth Schellekens

Language: English

Pages: 172

ISBN: 0826497624

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Aesthetic and moral value are often seen to go hand in hand. They do so not only practically, such as in our everyday assessments of artworks that raise moral questions, but also theoretically, such as in Kant's theory that beauty is the symbol of morality. Some philosophers have argued that it is in the relation between aesthetic and moral value that the key to an adequate understanding of either notion lies. But difficult questions abound. Must a work of art be morally admirable in order to be aesthetically valuable? How, if at all, do our moral values shape our aesthetic judgements - and vice versa?

Aesthetics and Morality is a stimulating and insightful inquiry into precisely this set of questions. Elisabeth Schellekens explores the main ideas and debates at the intersection of aesthetics and moral philosophy. She invites readers to reflect on the nature of beauty, art and morality, and provides the philosophical knowledge to render such reflection more rigorous. This original, inspiring and entertaining book sheds valuable new light on a notably complex and challenging area of thought.

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necessarily deepen our moral understanding and develop­ ment. They do so, Nussbaum explains, by focusing our attention and shaping our attitudes appropriately. To put it simply, then, one of the main re asons why one might value art on the Aristotelian approach is that it seems to enhance our life by yielding some form of understanding, insight and knowledge that we deem important both in relation to ourselves and to our fellow human beings. However, since not everyone agrees with this claim,

deplorable ideas with cogency and conviction. It is beginning to look, then, as though the issue of morally repre­ hensible art that is nonetheless good art (perhaps even precisely because of its morally reprehensible character) has a decisive say in this debate that simply cannot be overlooked. For. and as m entioned above in relation to Nabokov's Lolita, one of the most fruitful things that a good artwork can do is to get us to assent (albeit tem­ porarily and fictionally) to perspectives tbat

enthusiasm for the project. I am grateful to Derek Matravers, the Series Editor, for many interesting conversations and exchanges on the subject. Also, Ella Carpenter and Catherine Harris, who with their great friendship have sustained and encouraged me throughout, and Matthew Murphy, for the many excellent examples of immoral art. I am particularly grateful to my family. who have taught me to see the value of beauty and goodness, and encouraged me to pursue them at aU levels of life. Fmally, I

contact with are one and the same: namely, the proper order of the universe, disclosed in which are not only the laws of physics but the moral laws as well. Following Shaftesbury, Hutcheson refines and bolsters the case by arguing that aesthetic perception is the natural model through which to understand the moral case. Our sense of beauty, he suggests, is a distinct perceptual ability which, although linked to the higher mental facuities, nonetheless operates in the same m anner as a sense: This

'aesthetic life' can be explained in terms of aesthetic experience, and so, he holds, the theory cannot actually be undermined by the claim that not all aspects of our 'aesthetic life' are characterized by unity, complexity and intensity. The point is indeed a crucial one to address, for famously, George Dickie has held that Beardsley's suggestion cannot be said to define aesthetic experience successfully since there is no princi­ pled reason to suppose that our aesthetic experiences must always

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